Dear Sirs : Let me begin by clearing up any possible misconception in your minds , wherever you are .
The collective by which I address you in the title above is neither patronizing nor jocose but an exact industrial term in use among professional thieves .
It is , I am reliably given to understand , the technical argot for those who engage in your particular branch of the boost ; ;
i.e. , burglars who rob while the tenants are absent , in contrast to hot-slough prowlers , those who work while the occupants are home .
Since the latter obviously require an audacity you do not possess , you may perhaps suppose that I am taunting you as socially inferior .
Far from it ; ;
I merely draw an etymological distinction , hoping that specialists and busy people like you will welcome such precision in a layman .
Above all , disabuse yourselves of any thought that I propose to vent moral indignation at your rifling my residence , to whimper over the loss of a few objets d'art , or to shame you into rectitude .
My object , rather , is to alert you to an aspect or two of the affair that could have the gravest implications for you , far beyond the legal sanctions society might inflict .
You have unwittingly set in motion forces so malign , so vindictive , that it would be downright inhumane of me not to warn you about them .
Quite candidly , fellows , I wouldn't be in your shoes for all the rice in China .
As you've doubtless forgotten the circumstances in the press of more recent depredations , permit me to recapitulate them briefly .
Sometime on Saturday evening , August 22nd , while my family and I were dining at the Hostaria dell' Orso , in Rome , you jimmied a window of our home in Bucks County , Pennsylvania , and let yourselves into the premises .
Hastening to the attic , the temperature of which was easily hotter than the Gold Coast , you proceeded to mask the windows with a fancy wool coverlet , some khaki pants , and the like , and to ransack the innumerable boxes and barrels stored there .
What you were looking for ( unless you make a hobby of collecting old tennis rackets and fly screens ) eludes me , but to judge from phonograph records scattered about a fumed-oak Victrola .
You danced two tangos and a paso doble , which must have been fairly enervating in that milieu .
You then descended one story , glommed a television set from the music room -- the only constructive feature of your visit , by the way -- and , returning to the ground floor , entered the master bedroom .
From the curio cabinet on its south wall and the bureaus beneath , you abstracted seventeen ivory , metal , wood , and stone sculptures of Oriental and African origin , two snuffboxes , and a jade-handled magnifying glass .
Rummaging through a stack of drawers nearby , you unearthed an antique French chess set in ivory and sandalwood , which , along with two box Kodaks , you added to your haul .
Then , having wrapped the lot in an afghan my dog customarily slept on , you lammed out the front door , considerately leaving it open for neighbors to discover .
So much for the tiresome facts , as familiar to you , I'm sure , as to the constables and state troopers who followed in your wake .
The foregoing , aided by several clues I'll withhold to keep you on your toes , will pursue you with a tenacity worthy of Inspector Javert , but before they close in , gird yourselves , I repeat , for a vengeance infinitely more pitiless .
Fourteen of the sculptures you took possess properties of a most curious and terrifying nature , as you will observe when your limbs begin to wither and your hair falls out in patches .
In time , these minor manifestations will multiply and effloresce , riddling you with frambesia , the king's evil , sheep rot , and clonic spasm , until your very existence becomes a burden and you cry out for release .
All this , though , is simply a prelude , a curtain-raiser , for what ensues , and I doubt whether any Occidental could accurately forecast it .
If , however , it would help to intensify your anguish , I can delimit the powers of a few of the divinities you've affronted and describe the punishment they meted out in one analogous instance .
Hold on tight .
First of all , the six figures of the Buddha you heisted -- four Siamese heads , a black obsidian statuette in the earth-touching position , and a large brass figure of the Dying Buddha on a teakwood base .
Now , you probably share the widespread Western belief that the Lord Buddha is the most compassionate of the gods , much more so than Jehovah and Allah and the rest .
'fess up -- don't you ? ?
Well , ordinarily he is , except ( as the Wheel of the Law specifies ) toward impious folk who steal , disturb , or maltreat the Presence .
Very peculiar retribution indeed seems to overtake such jokers .
Eight or ten years ago , a couple of French hoods stole a priceless Khmer head from the Musee Guimet , in Paris , and a week later crawled into the Salpetriere with unmistakable symptoms of leprosy .
Hell's own amount of chaulmoogra oil did nothing to alleviate their torment ; ;
they expired amid indescribable fantods , imploring the Blessed One to forgive their desecration .
Any reputable French interne can supply you with a dozen similar instances , and I'll presently recount a case out of my own personal experience , but , for the moment , let's resume our catalogue .
Whether the pair of Sudanese ivory carvings you lifted really possess the juju to turn your livers to lead , as a dealer in Khartoum assured me , I am not competent to say .
Likewise the ivory Chinese female figure known as a `` doctor lady '' ( provenance Honan ) ; ;
a friend of mine removing her from the curio cabinet for inspection was felled as if by a hammer , but he had previously drunk a quantity of applejack .
The three Indian brass deities , though -- Ganessa , Siva , and Krishna -- are an altogether different cup of tea .
They hail from Travancore , a state in the subcontinent where Kali , the goddess of death , is worshiped .
Have you ever heard of Thuggee ? ?
Nuf sed .
But it is the wooden sculpture from Bali , the one representing two men with their heads bent backward and their bodies interlaced by a fish , that I particularly call to your attention .
Oddly enough , this is an amulet against housebreakers , presented to the mem and me by a local rajah in 1949 .
Inscribed around its base is a charm in Balinese , a dialect I take it you don't comprehend .
Neither do I , but the Tjokorda Agoeng was good enough to translate , and I'll do as much for you .
Whosoever violates our rooftree , the legend states , can expect maximal sorrow .
The teeth will rain from his mouth like pebbles , his wife will make him cocu with fishmongers , and a trolley car will grow in his stomach .
Furthermore -- and this , to me , strikes an especially warming note -- it shall avail the vandals naught to throw away or dispose of their loot .
The cycle of disaster starts the moment they touch any belonging of ours , and dogs them unto the forty-fifth generation .
Sort of remorseless , isn't it ? ?
Still , there it is .
Now , you no doubt regard the preceding as pap ; ;
you're tooling around full of gage in your hot rods , gorging yourselves on pizza and playing pinball in the taverns and generally behaving like Ubermenschen .
In that case , listen to what befell another wisenheimer who tangled with our joss .
A couple of years back , I occupied a Village apartment whose outer staircase contained the type of niche called a `` coffin turn '' .
In it was a stone Tibetan Buddha I had picked up in Bombay , and occasionally , to make merit , my wife and I garlanded it with flowers or laid a few pennies in its lap .
After a while , we became aware that the money was disappearing as fast as we replenished it .
Our suspicions eventually centered , by the process of elimination , on a grocer's boy , a thoroughly bad hat , who delivered cartons to the people overhead .
The more I probed into this young man's activities and character , the less savory I found him .
I learned , for example , that he made a practice of yapping at dogs he encountered and , in winter , of sprinkling salt on the icy pavement to scarify their feet .
His energy was prodigious ; ;
sometimes he would be up before dawn , clad as a garbage collector and hurling pails into areaways to exasperate us , and thereafter would hurry to the Bronx Zoo to grimace at the lions and press cigar butts against their paws .
Evenings , he was frequently to be seen at restaurants like Enrico & Paglieri's or Peter's Backyard drunkenly donning ladies' hats and singing `` O Sole Mio '' .
In short , and to borrow an arboreal phrase , slash timber .
Well , the odious little toad went along chivying animals and humans who couldn't retaliate , and in due course , as was inevitable , overreached himself .
One morning , we discovered not only that the pennies were missing from the idol but that a cigarette had been stubbed out in its lap .
`` Now he's bought it '' , said my wife contentedly .
`` No divinity will hold still for that .
He's really asking for it '' .
And how right she was .
The next time we saw him , he was a changed person ; ;
he had aged thirty years , and his face , the color of tallow , was crisscrossed with wrinkles , as though it had been wrapped in chicken wire .
Some sort of nemesis was haunting his footsteps , he told us in a quavering voice -- either an ape specter or Abe Spector , a process-server , we couldn't determine which .
His eyes had the same dreadful rigid stare as Dr. Grimesby Roylott's when he was found before his open safe wearing the speckled band .
The grocery the youth worked for soon tired of his depressing effect on customers , most of whom were sufficiently neurotic without the threat of incubi , and let him go .
The beautiful , the satisfying part of his disintegration , however , was the masterly way the Buddha polished him off .
Reduced to beggary , he at last got a job as office boy to a television producer .
His hubris , deficiency of taste , and sadism carried him straightaway to the top .
He evolved programs that plumbed new depths of bathos and besmirched whole networks , and quickly superseded his boss .
Not long ago , I rode down with him in an elevator in Radio City ; ;
he was talking to himself thirteen to the dozen and smoking two cigars at once , clearly a man in extremis .
`` See that guy '' ? ?
The operator asked pityingly .
`` I wouldn't be in his shoes for all the rice in China .
There's some kind of a nemesis haunting his footsteps '' .
However one looks at it , therefore , I'd say that your horoscope for this autumn is the reverse of rosy .
The inventory you acquired from me isn't going to be easy to move ; ;
you can't very well sidle up to people on the street and ask if they want to buy a hot Bodhisattva .
Additionally , since you're going to be hors de combat pretty soon with sprue , yaws , Delhi boil , the Granville wilt , liver fluke , bilharziasis , and a host of other complications of the hex you've aroused , you mustn't expect to be lionized socially .
My advice , if you live long enough to continue your vocation , is that the next time you're attracted by the exotic , pass it up -- it's nothing but a headache .
As you can count on me to do the same .
Compassionately yours ,
S. J. Perelman
revulsion in the desert
the doors of the D train slid shut , and as I dropped into a seat and , exhaling , looked up across the aisle , the whole aviary in my head burst into song .
She was a living doll and no mistake -- the blue-black bang , the wide cheekbones , olive-flushed , that betrayed the Cherokee strain in her Midwestern lineage , and the mouth whose only fault , in the novelist's carping phrase , was that the lower lip was a trifle too voluptuous .
From what I was able to gauge in a swift , greedy glance , the figure inside the coral-colored boucle dress was stupefying .